Congresswoman Pingree Renews Push to Speed up Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Process


Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Me.) at a Rally in Monument Square, Portland Last Year.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) last week reintroduced her Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act legislation that reduces the current 180-day waiting period for work authorization eligibility to 30 days, allowing an asylum seeker to apply for authorization as soon as the asylum claim is filed.

The updated legislation would also eliminate the cumbersome 2-year renewal schedule.  The bill makes no changes to law or regulation relating to the asylum process, but would have a significant impact on new asylum seekers in Maine – allowing them to gain work more quickly, become self-sufficient through the process of establshing roots in their new community and contrbute to our economy.

Under a federal law passed in 1996,  asylum seekers are required to wait at least half a year after filing an asylum petition before being able to obtain authorization to work.  This law requires that once a person filed an asylum claim, he or she must wait 150 days before being able to apply for a work authorization, which can be granted no earlier than 180 days  after the filing of the asylum claims.  Often, because of technical issues and delays in processing work authorization requests, this time period is much longer.

In 2020, the Trump administration introduced a change that more than doubled the period of time asylum seekers must wait to apply for work authorization from 150 days to 365 days.  In response, Pingree led a group of 50 members of Congress in voicing their strong opposition to Trump’s proposal in a letter to the US Department of Homeland Secudrity.  This rule was implemented in August 2020 but overturned in February 2022.

“Asylum seekers – many of whom are living in shelters and hotels with help from local governments and non-profits – are lawfully protected to be here and they deserve the right to be self-sufficient and become part of their new communities,” said Pingree,.  “With my bill, asylum seekers will no longer be subject to an arbitrary waiting period before applying for work authorization and would be eligible to receive a work permit just 30 days after applying for asylum.  Additioally, these work permits would no longer need to be renewed every two years, allowing asylum seekers to stay connected to their jobs and employers to mainain their labor force.  My Asylum Seeker Work  Authorization Act connects the counterintuitive work authorization process with a commonsense solution, giving asylum seekers an opportunity to live a safe, fulfilling life while giving our economy the boost it so desparately needs.”

Pingree’s Act is supported by numerous national and state immigration nonprofits.

For more background information on this proposed legislation introduced by Congresswoman Pingree and Veronica Escabar (D-TX), please visit post herein dated October 5, 2022